THORNDIKE – Family and friends of Kitty McGuire say they continue to grieve for the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide last month.
On Thursday the local school district hosted a community forum on suicide prevention and grieving that included presentations by the National Alliance on Mental Health and two parents of children lost to suicide.
“There are some good resources, and I’m happy to see that they are available to the community; but I haven’t heard anything about action against bullying,” said Tim McGuire, Kitty McGuire’s uncle.
Some parents and students at the middle school also said the school district needs to better address a bullying problem that might have been a factor in the death of McGuire, a sixth-grader at Mount View Middle School.
Allegations that bullying contributed to McGuire’s death are still under investigation, said Heather Perry, superintendent of School Administrative District 3, which includes the towns of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo.
“Like any school in the state and in the nation, we do have bullying; but I have faith that the policies and procedures we have in place can address that problem accordingly,” Perry said.
Kaetlin Lewis, 11, of Jackson, a friend of McGuire’s, said she was called names and made fun of because of her sexuality.
She also said McGuire had threatened to kill herself before and that she had gone to the school’s guidance counselor several times. She attended the forum Thursday night with her mother, Rebecca Lewis.
“Overall, the forum was a good way to get through it, not over it. We are trying to learn to live with it,” said Sylvia Small, 12, of Monroe, McGuire’s ex-girlfriend.
She said that in the immediate days after Kitty’s death she was “appalled” at how the school handled it. She said counseling services were available to her because she was close to McGuire but that other students were not given the same amount of time to see counselors.
“I was told to get over it and move on. I felt angry, sad and ashamed of my feelings,” Small said. “I wish they’d had something like this sooner.”
Carrie Horne, assistant director of the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, cited three steps for talking about and preventing suicide: overcoming fear of the topic, listening to what the person you are concerned about has to say and being prepared to help.
Some people who were close to McGuire said there were red flags that should have been paid more attention to, including the suicide of an uncle about a year ago and the fact that she had been struggling to figure out her sexual identity.
“Those are two big issues, and they can be hard for someone so young to deal with,” said April Small, Syvia Small’s mother.
Still, she said she thinks bullying was also a factor in McGuire’s death and that it continues to go on at the school. Her own daughter has been made fun of for the clothes she wears and music she listens to, Small said.
“We wouldn’t be here discussing a suicide if there wasn’t a larger issue. The forum was good, but they still need to address the big issue,” she said.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368